German army recruits more minors than ever before: report

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German army recruits more minors than ever before: report
Soldiers in Letzlingen, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: DPA.

More and more underaged females and males in Germany have been joining the country’s armed forces, according to a media report published on Tuesday.


Last year the number of soldiers in the German army who were not yet of legal age rose to 2,128, the newspaper Rheinische Post (RP) reported, referring to numbers provided by the Defence Ministry.

The previous record level in 2016 was 1,907 underaged soldiers. Back in 2011, this figure was just 689. But now, juveniles are signing up to the armed forces more than ever before as this figure has tripled.

Of the 2,128 recruits, 448 are young women - an eightfold increase since 2011, when there were only 57 underage female soldiers.

Even after completing their six-month probationary period, dozens of soldiers had not yet reached the age of maturity last year, according to the report. A person is considered an adult in Germany at the age of 18.

Germany allows 17-year-olds to join the Bundeswehr with parental permission, though they are limited to using weapons during training, and are not sent on international missions.
According to NGO Child Soldiers International, a large majority of countries worldwide only recruit people over 18 into their militaries. Germany still holds on to an exception under international law that allows those under 18 to volunteer as long as it's not for violent conflicts.

In 2014, the UN Committee on the Rights of Children told Germany that it should raise its recruitment age.

The Bundeswehr has defended its recruitment of 17-year-olds, insisting that weapons training is done under strict supervision.

“Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen apparently has no qualms about moving forward with the recruitment of junior staff," Evrim Sommer from the Left Party told the RP.

As long as Germany itself recruits juveniles for military purposes, it can’t criticize others for doing it, Sommer added.

“The federal government is compromising its own efforts to stop the deployment of underaged soldiers on an international scale."

The armed forces in Germany are understaffed and rely on out-dated equipment, reports Spiegel Online, adding that the Ministry of Defence has been spending tens of millions of euros on PR campaigns to attract new recruits.

Compulsory military service ended in Germany for male citizens in 2011. During the last year when conscription was active, males either had to serve six months in the military or engage in civilian or honorary service.


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